Books for September


by Diana Studer

- gardening for biodiversity

 in Cape Town, South Africa


This time my seven inspired pictures of memories. My own, my mother's and my grandmother's.


Glass vase from IKEA Swiss memories chipped while moving Who knew you could smooth that off with a nail file? (Google did!)
Glass vase from IKEA
Swiss memories chipped while moving
Who knew you could smooth that off with a nail file? (Google did!)


This is yesterday


'My baby sister' was named Peach by her sister. Her father has Alzheimer's. Woken by the phone in the middle of the night.


Immediately she knows there will be fluorescent light and waiting, the crunchy flex of an empty plastic cup in her hand, inadequate words to fend off silence. Dad's had an accident, a bad one.


... picking up sea glass ... Miraculous how it entered the sea jagged and lethal and came out soft and opaque. A comforting illustration of how time blunts keen edges.


But now she feels too old for herself: the difficult middle age of the manic pixie dream girl. Too old for her unidividual uniqueness to be cute and too young for it to be eccentric.


His November 2017 hike and our first house in Camps Bay
His November 2017 hike
and our first house
in Camps Bay 

Maxine CASE

All we have left unsaid


More exotic to me, because it is set in my city, during my memories. But political and social history setting, from the 'other side'. When the 'Coloured' high schools were closed against student protest action. Send your child to a private school, if you can pay the fees, and education continues uninterrupted. Her mother is dying in hospital. The daughter's memories, and the gaps which will never be spelt out now. Two sisters sort of making peace with each other. One had emigrated to Canada and a new life, the other stayed with the New South Africa. The book opens with her own poem.




After the dust has settled

on the clean rings

where the tables and chairs

once stood,

and family portraits

of happier times

are taken down,

leaving chips

in the plaster

and holes in the wall,

here our ghosts

will twist and dance.


- by Maxine Case


Silken memories from London December 1976
Silken memories from London December 1976


In the shadow of the banyan


Civil war in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A little girl who was part of the royal family. 'Rami's story is, in essence, my own'. 1975. Khmer Rouge.


From the Author's Note

We are all beggars, my father said. It doesn't matter what we wear - rags, a saffron robe, or silk. We each ask the same of life.


Exiled to farm labour in a tiny village

We settled into Stung Khae during what Pok called the "lament of the monsoon,"  that period of the season when the rain came in a steady drizzle throughout the morning, then wailed inconsolably in the afternoon, before it softened to a sob that was to last through the evening and sometimes well into the night.



There your heart lies


In 1936 from New York to volunteer as a nurse in the Lincoln Brigade. Franco died in 1975, only now do I realise the context for the armed men in uniform we saw on the streets of Madrid in January 1977. This book has many intense layers - a gay brother, the Catholic church militant in USA and Spain, the son who is turned against his mother by a Spanish grandmother. And yet, each one doing the right thing as they understand it.  


Marian knows that when she was younger, Naomi's age, fifty-seven, she might have been impatient with Amelia or someone like her. But she's ninety-two. One thing she knows about herself: with age, she got kinder.


Penelope LIVELY

How it all began


That text message, which was seen by the wrong person.


For ever, reading has been central, the necessary fix, the support system. Her life has been informed by reading. ... she has read to find out if things are the same for others as they are for her - then, discovering that frequently they are not, she has read to find out what it is that other people are experiencing that she is missing. ... She read to find out what it was like to be French or Russian in the nineteenth century, to be a rich New Yorker then, or a mid-western pioneer. She read to discover how not to be Charlotte, how to escape the prison of her own mind, how to expand, and experience.


To the Owl House Nelspoort to Murraysburg March 2010
To the Owl House
Nelspoort to Murraysburg March 2010

Hantam Karoo winter sky June 2008
Hantam Karoo
winter sky June 2008 




Nico and his father are 'among the few survivors of a virus that has killed most of the world's population' Written in 2016 before COVID and set in South Africa's wide open spaces. With unexpected twists in the tale. [I  read later about Neanderthal genes provide protection?]


 'The past is like a river, Nico. We can't remember all the water that has flowed past. So, when we look back, we first look at all the driftwood, those bits of detritus that the storms and floods left behind washed up high on riverbanks.'


Meklein and Vytjie ... It was one of the great mysteries of the universe that they survived the Fever together. A statistical impossibility. They were husband and wife. He was three-quarters Bushman, she was coloured. With Griqua blood, she always said. She was the veld doctor for coloured people of the whole district. And us children too. She knew the medicinal properties of each plant in the veld.


I believe the Bushmen have a genetic resistance to the virus, if I look at how many we've run into over the past years, how many of them survived.


Cornwall my mother's childhood memories
Cornwall my mother's childhood memories
(I claimed her row of Cornish books)

Nicola UPSON

The dead of winter


Murder mystery. Set at Christmas. In the castle. On St Michael's Mount in Cornwall. The guests donate to a charity in return for a High Society weekend. Now we would enjoy the famous garden, but this is set in 1938, with the twist beginning in 1920.


I remember visiting the island in December 1976. We walked one way on the low tide causeway, and were rowed the other way in a little boat. Our boatman was fascinated by 2 South African girls - and told us he loved our tinned pilchards.


I enjoyed being invited to join the family in the castle for Christmas (and NOT living thru the actual murders)


It was the day that stripped the joy from Christmas ... a young detective sergeant ... Notting Dale, a rookery of overcrowded streets [1920]


'Are you at home for Christmas, Miss Tey?' [1938 in Inverness]

'I'm going to stay with a friend in Cornwall.'


Granma's guide to Cornwall She moved her daughters from London when they started daylight bombing
Granma's guide to Cornwall
She moved her daughters from London
when they started daylight bombing

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  1. I didn't know you could smooth chipped glass either! A useful tidbit to tuck away. I'll be looking into a couple of those books, most notably the one by Lively.